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Captain of My Soul

The 26-foot catamaran is impressing her owners during initial trials.

The 26-foot catamaran is impressing her owners during initial trials.

A towboat operator won’t do the owner of a stranded vessel much good if he falls in the water, especially in Maine. The co-owners of SeaTow Portland/Midcoast ensured that won’t happen when they themselves built a new 26-foot aluminum catamaran.

“The operator never has to get up forward on the deck,” Bruce White, one of the owners of the franchise, told Trade Only Today. “You’re always surrounded by the gunwale.”

White and his business partner, Matthew Wilder, wanted a boat that could tow stranded vessels and carry six, plus the captain, in the cockpit. They also operate a water-taxi in Portland and the surrounding waters, providing ferrying services for commercial captains, the Coast Guard and researchers.

“We wanted a task-specific boat,” said White. “We wanted something, quick, dry, stable, comfortable and can carry a half-dozen passengers.”

After checking out other vessels in the SeaTow fleet and talking to other captains, White and Wilder couldn’t find what they were looking for. “A lot of the fellows in the network are using catamarans and they didn’t check all the boxes for us,” said White.

The boat’s heavy-duty construction should ensure that she can handle rough water.

The boat’s heavy-duty construction should ensure that she can handle rough water.

They finally discovered their new boat online at specmar.com. The Scappoose, Ore.-based company designed the catamaran and a local machine shop cut all the aluminum parts for the boat. They were shipped across the country on a flatbed and local welders Jim Buxton and Greg Bergman of Atlantic Marine put it all together at a shop in Topsham, Maine. Hodgdon Marine sold White and Wilder the motors and helped with the rigging. White, a former woodworker, did the carpentry while Wilder and electrician Chris Davis handled all the wiring.

White and Wilder painted the boat themselves. It’s named Retriever because, apart from its use in towing other vessels, Wilder has an affinity for Golden Retrievers.

White’s father was a longtime employee at Raytheon before the company became Raymarine so he decided to equip Retriever with electronics from the New Hampshire-based business. “I’ve got a soft spot for them,” said White.

The pair chose aluminum because it’s light and easy to work with. The boat has an 11’6” beam and weighs 11,000 pounds. It’s powered by twin 200-hp outboards. It has been in the water for about a week.

The helm includes a Raymarine Axiom multifunction display.

The helm includes a Raymarine Axiom multifunction display.

“We’re still on the break-in phase with the engines and we’re working the bugs out,” said White. He has seen speeds in excess of 25 knots and fuel flow ratings around 18 gallons per hour. “Right now, I’m extremely pleased with the boat, it’s flat it’s stable,” he said.

There is space for six on bench seats in the pilothouse, which is insulated so it will be easier to keep warm during the water. The deck is reinforced and has a towing bit welded in place. White and Wilder opted to install a line reel on the boat and the bow has a D-rail fendering system that make it easier to do crew exchanges for large commercial vessels. “We can run the bow right up to a ship,” said White.

White estimates that the pricetag for the boat is “north of $130,000.” All the equipment was purchased, but he did add that Hodgdon Yacht Services, which sold them the motors, Raymarine, West Marine Pro and Hamilton Marine all treated him and Wilder “very well.” The boat is one of seven in the combined fleet for SeaTow Portland/Midcoast. 

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